I received a very special invitation from Seena and Sebastian Panakal to speak to a group of women for International Women’s Day on March 8th. In Australia, the status of women continues to improve and gender equality is increasing in evidence. There is a lot of public attention on treating women with respect but that is still not always the case.
The group of women who I was to present to were from Kerala, India. These are Women of the Wiki, women who wish to become empowered, improve their status in life and the education of their community and to increase employment opportunities for their families. They do not enjoy the same privileges or standard of living that I, as a woman in Australia does. How special to share this International Day with women who lived in another country.
My role was to share the power that technology can provide. Accents can always be a problem and English may not be their first language, so I put together a brief Powerpoint presentation with images to help with understanding. I showed where I live (on a farm in rural south Eastern Australia) and where I teach (a remote rural school of 200 students aged 5 to 18), an area that has no mobile phone service. However, access to the internet and a powerful network has enabled the world to be our classroom, resulting in a number of awards including global awards. Many invitations have now come my way to present at a variety of conferences both in Australia and overseas, including Qatar, Shanghai and USA. It is hoped that these women could see that ordinary women can achieve great things with the innovative use of technology and a strong network.
Skype was used to connect. Screen sharing allowed the Indian audience to see my presentation. Sebastian capably organised the videoconference from his end.
The women of Kerala, India were encouraged to consider tourism, providing homestays (through homestays.com or airbnb or similar) or “meals with strangers” (through apps and sites like VizEat, EatWith) could provide a welcome income for some of these women. Selling their craft work online is another possibility. The internet can open up willing global markets. They could teach their language online for a small fee. What other ideas do you have to help them?
Sebastian Panakal, a valued online teaching colleague, together with his wife Seena organised this event. Other online guest speakers were to follow. It is hoped that these women can think of ways to use technology to full effect and improve their and their family’s station in life.
One of the women asks a question
Safer Internet Day is a global day at the beginning of February each year, encourage people (especially students) to stay safe online.
Over the last few years, the Office of eSafety Commissioner, conduct an online webinar for schools with students of years 4-6 levels. These webinars are great as they are interactive and informative.
This year’s webinar’s theme “A better internet begins with you!” encouraged the students to make the internet a positive space to enjoy. Internet use was likened to playing sport. An email from Digital Learning informed us that there were more than 500 logins to the webinar with 17,200 students attending virtually. Time was given for students to discuss given questions and scenarios, the results then placed in the chat area of Adobe Connect. The updates certainly came in at great speed due to the number involved.
Students were each asked to make a pledge on how they could make the internet a positive place. Students in grade 4-6 made their pledges at the completion of the webinar.
Another great webinar with Greg Gebhart presenting, illustrating the power that technology can bring to the classroom.
Many valuable online resources can be found from the Australian eSafety Commissioner’s website for teachers, the classroom, parents and community members.
The winner of the Mardi Gras competition – the Penguin!
Reinhard Marx has been an online teaching colleague for many years, and pushes technology use to the boundaries of the world. Each year he organises many activities for his classes and brings other classes and educators in from across the world.
The class from Croatia, as seen through the Hangout!
Last night was one great example of his innovative work and this is what it looked like.
- Students in his school came dressed in costume for the Mardi Gras.
- Prior to the event he sent out a google spreadsheet seeking classes and teachers from across the globe to be judges. Interested teachers filled in the spreadsheet, with their name, class (if they had one), country and email contact.
The class from Hungary
- Just prior to the class, the link to a Google Hangout was shared
Tereza – a judge from Croatia
- Reinhard creatively set up 2 webcameras, one at the front for students to walk towards, showing their costume and also to act out their costume character.
The rear webcam allowed us to see the back of the costumes
- Another webcam was set up at the back of the room, so that we could see the detail of the back of the costume.
- There were three sessions in total. In my session, there were classes/educators from Hungary, Croatia, Russia and Australia
- A link was given to a judging sheet setup in Google Sheets. We gave each student a score for A) their costume itself and B) for their ability to act out the costume character. Each was scored out of 10
- The winner with the highest total received a chocolate bar!
- Sitting in on a German classroom virtually and hearing the German instructions and then often the English interpretations of the character’s costume.
- watching students being pushed outside their comfort zones to try and act out their character
- watching in real time, the global judges’ scores coming in on the spreadsheet
- seeing the variety of costumes
The total time taken was approximately 50 mins. Great work, Reinhard on a very successful competition.
Australia Day falls on January 26th, the same day that India celebrates its Republic Day. Although the date is becoming contentious in Australia, it is still a day to celebrate our wonderful country and its freedom, to enjoy the public holiday, to get together with family and friends and share a barbecue.
It is fun to be camping in Port Fairy for Australia Day. It starts with a free Lions Club breakfast on the Fiddlers Green. The breakfast consists of sausages, bacon and egg sandwiches, tea and coffee and muesli bars. This is followed by a special Australia Day ceremony. Australian flags abound in the caravan parks – on cars, caravans and tents.
Lamingtons – an Australian sweet cake treat coated in chocolate icing and coconut are readily available in the bakeries. They were bought as a treat to have with our coffee.
At 7:30pm, some of the campers set up 18 Australian flags in all shapes and sizes. Others gather around and we proudly sing our Australian anthem.
It was also an opportunity to connect, using Skype, with Sebastian Panakal and his Women of the Wiki (WOW)and share the special days for the two countries – India and Australia and to wish each other well.
Sebastian is doing some amazing work with his fellow community members. He explains what he is organising in the following quote.
WOW is an NGO launching their very first eLearning Centre at Calicut, Kerala on 26 Jan.
We have named it WOW CLT 001. We hope to set up WOW Franchisees, profit to be used for cultural exchanges for learners.
Launch is scheduled on 26 Jan, Republic Day India and Australia Day.
See the video produced by Sebastian
People often ask how where I have found educators to connect with. As the network grows, people tend to find me. One such person is Ngo Thanh Nam of Vietnam. Nam is also a Skype Master teacher, Asia’s Educator of the Year and has shares an impressive list of experiences and accomplishments. He has also connected me to a facebook group, connecting classrooms with a global focus on child abuse and safety. This has brought a further number of global connections. Again, I was added to a facebook Skype-a-thon group where a request from Nam was made to connect his class with another Asian class or educator as they were studying Asia.
The time requested suited me but I was on summer holidays, so had no students and I was not really from Asia. Australia is part of Pacifica. However, when I said I was available, Nam asked me to connect.
A presentation was quickly put together on Australia’s engagement with Asia under the following headings (on a personal involvement scale):-
- close neighbours
- trade (we live on a farm and sell our cattle and lamb to Asia.)
- tourism (my husband and I love to travel Asia, as do other Australians. Bali, Thailand and Vietnam are the popular destinations for Australians. Our school travels to China every second year)
- connected classrooms
- potential to solve global problems together etc
On connecting, I was introduced to the class and then proceeded to share my screen to show photos of our farm and photos illustrating the above connections with Asia.
Nam’s students then came up to the web camera on an individual basis, introduced themselves and then asked me questions on my knowledge of Asia – eg what foods are typically Asian etc? The students were well prepared, presented well to the camera, were articulate and spoke excellent English. Thanks Nam for the invitation. It was great to be part of your classroom.
“There is something culturally humbling about sitting down to a hot lunch, in a foreign country, having intense educational discussions with a fellow teacher who eats with his fingers whilst I use cutlery and serviette.”
The UNESCO_MGIEP inaugural conference took place in Visakhapatnam, Inda and was organised by UNESCO Mahatma Ghandi Institute of Education for Peace (MGIEP). The aim of the conference was to
provide a unique platform for learners and experts from across the globe including Ministers of education, information & communications technology and youth as well as senior policy makers, entrepreneurs, education technology providers, teachers, teacher educators, education psychologists, researchers and neuroscientists to collaborate, innovate and work towards transforming education for humanity.
The conference was brought to my attention when I was invited to a brunch for global educators at ISTE in June this year. Brochures promoting the conference were placed on the tables. ISTE supported the conference.
“The World is Our Classroom” was the topic of my presentation submitted for approval. It was accepted, so plans were made for travel; and time release, in the form of long service leave from school, was requested.
The conference was inspiring. For the first time in a face to face environment, fair complexioned skins were the minority and often a novelty. Despite my age, people approached me for selfies!!! The biggest proportion of attendees were from the Indian community, representing many different schooling types, languages/dialects and districts. There were more than 55 countries represented and 1400+registered attendees.
Highlights:- There were many but following are some of them:
- Immersing with so many different cultures, languages, backgrounds and religions.
- Attending sessions that involved interpreters. It was fascinating to hear the different languages.
- slides which featured both English and one of the Indian languages – Hindi, Tamil etc.
- being reminded of the poverty and trying conditions that many teachers in India, Bangladesh, Africa etc work under. Many schools do not have electricity. Many parents are illiterate but still want the best for their children.
- panel discussions from some of the world experts in a many fields involving technology eg gaming, robotics, AV and VR, Makerspaces etc
- Being a participant in a session that involved both Chinese and Russian presenters. The Russian presenters were sharing their research and experience in Artificial Intelligence.
- The conference had a mix of Ministers of Education, ICT administrators, entrepreneurs, researchers, neuroscientists, policy makers, educators and best of all quite a number of students – some quite young as participants.
- Ability to collaborate, innovate and work towards transforming education for humanity with many of the above participants.
- The mix of topics and choices available to participants.
- a tour of Vizag on the conference buses with a multicultural mix – Indians, Filipinos, a teacher from Azerbaijan – all eager to learn more about each other as we rode on the bus and stopped at the tourist attractions.
- The Novotel conference centre is situated on Beach road, with only the road separating it from the sea and its beautiful views.
- Meeting people who were also staying in my hotel, Winsar Park hotel, opposite the King George Hospital. Many of these people were also attendees or presenters at the conference.
Staying in hotel that had been highly recommended by Indian people on Trip Advisor. It was clean, had complementary breakfast (predominantly delicious Indian food). kind and helpful staff and a restaurant that stayed open until 11pm at night. (This was useful as sometimes I did not get back until 10pm)
- coping with the different accents even though the common language was English and trying to make sure each of us understood each other.
- the queues were long at lunchtime – often 1 hour or more, queues. However, this did provide an opportunity to meet others and continue conversations on education and backgrounds.
- determining what name I call people. The name tags showed a first name and last name but sometimes the culture they were from, reversed the sequence of names.
- working our way around the Novotel conference centre. However, there were many volunteers who did a great job to guide us. Some sessions had to be rescheduled due to inability of participants to find the correct room.
- overcoming my fears-of getting lost,missing my flights, making myself understood, suffering gastro from a changed diet, how trustworthy are my drivers (uber, cab and tuc tuc drivers) etc
- hearing a variety of native languages being spoken around the conference centre
- evidence of tight security. The conference was officially opened by the Chief Honourable Minister for Andhra Pradesh. Numerous police, security guards and the army equipped with large guns were everywhere inside and outside during this time. The volunteers and workers for the conference, formed a human chain as he walked through the exit near the conference participants.
- Women were clothed in saris, with legs covered either by the saris or leggings. There was little evidence of Western style dresses.
- Getting to the conference in the local transport – autocabs (or I would call them tuc tucs) and trying to make the driver know where I needed to go.
- Working out the meaning of the horizontal head nods – was it yes or no or something else?
- The spicy foods – I was told by those who lived in India that Andhra Pradesh food was amongst the most spicy of foods in India. I did enjoy their food but avoided any that obviously had red chilies in them and I drank lots of water!!!!